Kyrie Irving was among the most outspoken NBA players during the hiatus when it came to voicing concerns about the league’s restart plan. Irving raised questions about whether the restart would be in the best interest of players, particularly amid the growing Black Lives Matter movement and the importance of NBA players continuing to be a prominent voice in that movement.
While the majority of NBA players decided to enter the bubble, the same conversations were happening on the WNBA side where a number of players opted out, both for health concerns and for social justice reasons. While NBA players that opted out had already received a significant portion of their salary for the season, WNBA players opting out were risking their entire season’s pay — in a league where players are just seeing a raise from a CBA ratified this offseason.
As such, those players do not have the potential savings of NBA players who chose not to play in the restart, and Irving wants to make sure that they are given some financial security and assistance. As such, he launched the KAI Empowerment Initiative, which is funded fully by Irving with $1.5 million that will be allocated to players that opted out of whatever reason.
“Whether a person decided to fight for social justice, play basketball, focus on physical or mental health, or simply connect with their families, this initiative can hopefully support their priorities and decisions,” Irving said in a statement on Monday.
The program will also provide a financial literacy program to players through UBS, and they’ll be able to apply online through August 11, 2020. It’s a strong show of support from Irving and will provide players who had to make a very difficult decision to sit out the season without pay with some financial security that will surely be much appreciated.